Maduro to Run for Venezuela Reelection After Blocking Rival

(Bloomberg) -- Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro agreed to run for a third consecutive term this July, in an election where he is all but assured victory after disqualifying his main rival.

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Maduro was nominated by Venezuela’s ruling Socialist party at an event in Caracas on Saturday.

“I accept the presidential candidacy for the July 28 elections,” Maduro said at the same event. “With the support of the people, we will go to a new victory for the Bolivarian and Chavista forces.”

The government set the date for the election earlier this month, putting pressure on the opposition which has until March 25 to select a new challenger. Leading contender and opposition primary winner María Corina Machado was banned by the government and is facing growing pressure to select a replacement.

Socialist party Vice President Diosdado Cabello said Maduro’s candidacy received unanimous support from more than four million activists during assemblies last weekend, as well as from the PSUV’s leadership.

Read More: Venezuela Opposition Split on Who Will Challenge Maduro in July

Venezuela cleared the way to the vote after the opposition and the government agreed on an electoral roadmap. But much remains uncertain. While the electoral council said it had invited eight international monitor groups to oversee the vote last week, none have yet confirmed they will attend. The US could also reimpose sanctions if it deems Venezuela has broke an accord to hold free and fair elections.

In the meantime Machado has moved forward with her candidacy, holding out hope that a unified opposition will sustain the momentum her primary win created and force Maduro to allow her to participate.

The latest survey by Caracas-based firm ORC Consultores Frequency 58 showed Machado with 67.7% of voter intention in February, compared with Maduro’s 19.2% and less than 6% for other candidates.

(Adds Maduro’s comments from the first paragraph.)

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